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Navigating the Stars

Jaron Bane
9th Grade Science

Common Core Standards:

Design and conduct scientific investigations

Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications

Communicate and support a scientific argument

Lesson Summary:

In this lesson, the students will be processing information about a various amount of star. The goal is for them
to learn how stars are classified according to their size, color, mass and luminosity. They will be doing this
through a mixture of lectures and lab work using a program called Space Engine, which is based on real data,
Known galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, nebula are represented using catalogs: HIPPARCOS, NGC/IC,
Messier, MPC, NASA Exoplanet Archive and many others ( and 2 worksheets. With this
program, they are to look for the stars needed to fill out the worksheet with pre-determined stars that they will
have to find the temperature and luminosity of. Then they will have to take their data and make a H-R diagram
charting the stars in the correct way on the chart. This will be done in small groups of 2-3 students each.
Afterwards, they will upload their completed work to a shared Google Drive folder. I will assign at random
groups completed work to different groups to check and see if they got the same results. If not, they are to
formulate and present a well thought out argument for why their data is right compared to the groups they
checked, or explain what they did wrong if they discover that they had misinterpreted the or misplaced the data
on their own work.

Estimated Duration:

The lesson will be at least three 50 minute classes, a fourth day will be left open to finish the lesson if need be.


The lead up to this lesson will be going over how the universe first formed and how matter (dust clouds, stars,
planets, etc.) all came to be formed. This should help give the students an idea of the evolution of stars
specifically and help them better understand the study of stars. I expect the most challenging part of this lesson
will be the analyzing and critiquing of other groups data or their own errors in their data. The main hook for
this lesson will be the Space Engine software. It is a unique way to give the students a better look at the stars
themselves and make the data gathering a much more interesting experience for them.

Instructional Procedures:

Day 1: The first 20-30 minutes of this day will be devoted to a lecture. In the lecture, I will be going over the
terms of how luminosity, size, color and mass contribute to the classification of stars, and what those
classifications are. Before this lecture, we will have gone over the formation of the universe and the stellar
objects within the universe, including stars, being the last thing we talked about before this lesson. The last 20-
30 minutes, I will be going over how to use the Space Engine program and how to find the stars on their
worksheets and the appropriate information for each star. I will also explain the worksheets and what exactly a
H-R diagram is and what it is used for.

Day 2: For the second day, the students will have the all the time in class to be using the Space Engine
software to find the data for the stars on their worksheet. They will be expected to find the stars and fill in the
appropriate data fields of the first worksheet by using the software. Afterwards, they are to use a blank H-R
diagram worksheet and fill it in with the data points that they have gathered from the first worksheet. I will be
monitoring how the groups work together and how well they are using the provided software to complete their
assignment. Halfway through the class, I will go around and see if any of the groups have questions that they
have not asked about pertaining to the assignment. Any questions that are asked will be answered so the whole
class can benefit from the answer I provide. By the end of class, they are expected to have both worksheets
done and uploaded into the appropriate Google Drive file for the assignment.

Day 3: For the third day, I will have randomly assigned each group another groups work. They are to go
through and check it to see if they find any discrepancies from their data and the other groups data. If so, they
are to formulate and write out a well thought out argument explaining why they disagree with the other group
and how they concluded that the other groups data was wrong. If they find an error within their own data while
analyzing the other groups, they are to write out and explain first, what their finding was and then the error that
led them to gathering the wrong data. These arguments will be presented to the whole class verbally so that
there is a sharing of the analytical data that they went over. The point of this is to be able to communicate the
science and data of the lesson with the end goal being that each group, whether they did the assignment
completely right or errored in some way, coming to the correct conclusions of the interpretation of the data and
the classification of the stars themselves.

Day 4: This day will be left open to finish up lesson if more time is needed. Otherwise, we will start the next

The pre-assessment will consist of me monitoring how well the students participate in their groups. I expect an
equal amount of cooperation and actual participation. I will expect to see constructive conversation between
the group members and conversation pertaining to the assignment.

Scoring Guidelines:

The grading for this class will consist of my observations during the pre-assessment. I will also review
the groups work after they upload it into the Google Drive folder and their score will be based on the
accuracy of the gathered data and the plotting of the data on the H-R diagram. I will be lenient on the
grade if their work shows that they understand the main concepts of the learning material, but may have
just made a careless mistake or two. The last part of the grading will be how well each group reviewed
another groups work, and if a critique is necessary, how well their verbal argument was and its


After the assignment, we will do a quick review over the learning material: luminosity, mass, size and color
and how this relates to the classification of stars. This should take no longer then 10-15 min and will be done at
end of day 3 or during day 4 before moving on to the next lesson.

Scoring Guidelines:

This assignment will be a pass/fail. It is highly based on the understanding of the material and the
cooperation within the groups themselves. As stated in the scoring guidelines, if students show a good
understands of the learning material (luminosity, mass, size and color) and did a respectable job on the
data gathering and H-R diagram plotting along with reviewing and critiquing of another groups work,
they will get a passing grade. Low cooperation, students doing no work and not willing to engage with
other members of the group will not be beneficial. One student has the potential to fail the whole group,
so cooperation is a must and is expected!

Differentiated Instructional Support

Describe how instruction can be differentiated (changed or altered) to meet the needs of gifted or accelerated
As an extra challenge for this assignment, students can instead of typing in the name of the star, use a star chart
and try and find the star by just looking for it within the engine. This will undoubtedly take extra time, but that
is why I have an extra day set aside. This will also help demonstrate the luminosity of stars, and how they look
from far away in a realistic way.
Discuss additional activities you could do to meet the needs of students who might be struggling with the
For students struggling with this assignment, I will be available for questions at any time, and if need be, can
provide sample H-R charts (one area that I think might cause some issues for some) that already has some data
points plotted as an example of how it should be done.


This website does and excellent job of breaking down and critiquing to form a good scientific argument:

This website does a suitable job of explaining how the other two standards should be approached:

Homework Options and Home Connections

Students are encouraged to, if possible, download the Space Engine software and play around with it. It is an
excellent simulator of real world objects in space. They are also encouraged to look up the importance of
categorizing the stars and how we use luminosity and other data to learn about distant objects.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Math is one area that this assignment crosses over with. H-R diagram plotting resembles what is also done in
algebra classes when plotting data points.
Writing/Language Arts is another area that this would align with. For their arguments, they are to write them
out and it is expected to be done in the way that they would write an essay, proper punctuation, etc.

Materials and Resources:

For teachers Computer with Space Engine installed

Completed Data Point Worksheet
Completed H-R Diagram Worksheet
Partial H-R Diagram worksheet for examples for students if they need help
Access to Google Drive folder

For students Computer with Space Engine installed

Blank Data Point Worksheet
Blank H-R Diagram Worksheet
Access to Google Drive
Any notes that may be of help

Key Vocabulary

H-R Diagram
Star Classification

Additional Notes

Just so it doesnt seem like the kids are playing games during class, Space Engine is an accurate representation
and simulation of the known universe. From there website: Known galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, nebula
are represented using catalogs: HIPPARCOS, NGC/IC, Messier, MPC, NASA Exoplanet Archive and many
others (